Prove it. That seems to be the mantra.
If you didn’t know before — and you probably should have given some of the offseason moves— the Raiders have sent a pretty clear message to their players under new general manager Dave Ziegler and head coach Josh McDaniels.
Earn your silver and black stripes. Perform at a level where it’s impossible not to keep you around.
And that’s a good thing.
The latest such examples came Friday when the team chose not to pick up the fifth-year options of running back Josh Jacobs, defensive end Clelin Ferrell and safety Johnathan Abram.
First, it moves the Raiders further and further away from the Jon Gruden-Mike Mayock regime, the three players being among the draft centerpieces of the former head coach and GM.
But more and more, Ziegler and McDaniels are shaping the Raiders into the kind of team they desire.
More and more, it looks like the Patriots Way and their past lives working in New England.
Which is wrong only if you don’t like winning a whole lot.
It wasn’t a surprise that none of the eligible options were exercised. All three had enough question marks to make it sensible. Come back. Prove it. Then we shall see.
Ferrell: The former No. 4 overall pick’s production has wavered with each passing year. He has just eight sacks in three seasons and offered little-to-nothing in 2021.
Johnathan Abram: A box safety good against the run and not so much the pass. It’s not a welcome sight when he’s matched against opposing receivers and tight ends. Travis Kelce is still running free in the secondary.
Josh Jacobs: You might have thought him different when it comes to the option. He has two 1,000-yard seasons and was a Pro Bowler two years ago. But his production declined in 2021 and this is likely a case of his position being devalued across the league for some time now.
There is also this: New England has been a franchise to wholly promote the running-back-by-committee structure. Looks like Ziegler and McDaniels embrace that idea. Makes it easier not to pick up the option on Jacobs.
Hunter Renfrow needs a new deal at wide receiver. Darren Waller wants one at tight end. It didn’t make sense to pick up options worth millions of dollars now when spending could — should — go elsewhere.
But it isn’t just those with such options having to demonstrate their ability to a level Ziegler and McDaniels obviously want. Goes all the way to the top of the roster.
Take, for instance, quarterback Derek Carr.
His salary in 2023 ($33 million) isn’t guaranteed until three days after the Super Bowl, which means the team left itself a big out if things on the field don’t go as planned in 2022. It can move on from him.
Carr too, like many, seems to be auditioning for his future with the Raiders. Folks just don’t want to admit it.
If not, why structure the deal the way the Raiders did?
Parham the pick
Listen. We’re talking about a franchise that has been to the playoffs just twice in 20 years. Few should be really safe. Maybe this is the correct avenue to follow — a time for those steering the ship to take a harder stand on those not up to performing.
Ziegler and McDaniels seem to be balancing a unique master plan between trying to win immediately but also commanding a certain level of production.
The latest who will learn such is Dylan Parham, the team’s third-round pick from Friday night’s NFL draft. He is a 6-foot-3, 311-pound offensive lineman from Memphis. He plays a position where the Raiders definitely have a need. He would also be smart to show up and go all-out from the first snap.
Consider this prove-it time for him and all draft picks to come Saturday.
Heck, for everyone in the organization.
That’s a great thing.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at [email protected]. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.